Apple, Verizon to offer wireless updates to iPhone?

Sources tell 9to5Mac that the companies will begin offering wireless over-the-air updates to the iPhone following the release of iOS 5.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Will Verizon iPhone users finally be able to update their devices wirelessly without the need for iTunes?

Will the Verizon iPhone soon get its updates wirelessly?
Will the Verizon iPhone soon get its updates wirelessly? CNET

Multiple sources have told Apple news site 9to5Mac that Apple and Verizon Wireless will soon offer over-the-air updates to the iPhone following this fall's expected release of iOS 5. Although iOS 5 itself won't be available wirelessly, 9to5Mac reports that any future updates to the OS will come over the air. With such a change, people would no longer need a PC and iTunes to act as the middlemen to keep their smartphones current.

If the reports are true, Apple would join rival Google, which already offers Android users the ability to update their devices sans computer. Apple reportedly also has the technology to update its devices over the air already, but the company has apparently been cautious about opening it up everywhere. However, Apple has been chatting with Verizon about unleashing this technology since early this year, said 9to5Mac.

The sources didn't say whether wireless updates would also be available on AT&T or international carriers of the iPhone. No specific mention was made to the iPad or iPod Touch, but the same technology logically should extend to all of Apple's iOS devices.

Though over-the-air updates would provide a convenient, mobile way to keep the iPhone updated, there are a couple of potential pitfalls.

Most iOS updates now weigh in at over 600MB, a hefty payload to deliver wirelessly. 9to5Mac believes Apple would have to pare down the size of its updates, perhaps by offering smaller and more incremental updates rather than fewer and larger updates.

Also, updating an iPhone through iTunes first syncs the contents of the device to the PC as a precaution in the event the update fails. If an update were to bypass iTunes, people would need some other way to back up and sync their devices, perhaps through some sort of cloud-based system.

Tech enthusiast site Pocket Lint adds a slightly different spin to the story, saying that if Apple were to apply over-the-air updates, it would apply them universally and not just to the Verizon iPhone. The site believes we'll hear more about this potential new development in a month when Apple opens the doors to its Worldwide Developers Conference.